A few years ago, Velan Studios embarked on a bold experiment. In conjunction with Nintendo, the developer put together a mixed reality hybrid version of Mario Kart, one that allows players to use their own home as the track. It was a fun idea and one that stood out as a truly unique effort. Today, Velan Studios is taking what it's learned, building on that concept, and going farther with another beloved IP. On Tuesday, the team unveiled Hot Wheels: Rift Rally.
Hot Wheels: Rift Rally builds on the foundation set by Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit. Packed in each box is the new Chameleon RC Car, which features its own unique design and is topped with a high-end camera. The idea is to drive the Chameleon around the house, but for this game, Velan Studios is going farther with the "game" aspect of the package. To learn more, Shacknews recently met with the developer to try Rift Rally out for ourselves.
The Chameleon controls like a standard RC car. In this case, the remote will be the free-to-download software, which is available through iOS and the PlayStation Store. Users on PS5 and PS4 shouldn't have any issues controlling their cars with the DualSense controller. The iOS version of the game may need a few extra items, like a controller hooked up via Bluetooth or a third-party iPhone controller grip. The Chameleon's camera feed will hook into the software, allowing players to see their own homes through the vehicle's perspective. Like Mario Kart Live, the package will come with markers called Rift Gates that will allow users to craft their own track layouts throughout their home. The Chameleon is a strong piece of work, able to maneuver through anything but the shaggiest of carpeting.
While Rift Rally shares a lot of commonalities with Mario Kart Live, this is a uniquely Hot Wheels package. The first thing to note is that while the physical Chameleon will look the same, the car within the game can be changed to a variety of different vehicle choices. The digital Chameleon can transform into any one of 22 different Hot Wheels cars, each with different stats and abilities. Furthermore, each of those 22 designs will have their own variants, all of which will have different properties. That offers up hundreds of different vehicle combinations, all of which can be customized with various rewards earned through natural gameplay.
While the Rift Gates can create tracks for traditional races, players can also enter Stunt mode and focus more on score chasing. While the Chameleon will drive like a standard RC car, the digital car on the player's screen can be seen from a third-person view jumping ramps, popping wheelies, and drifting long distances.
Rift Rally's Campaign mode opens up a series of challenges, mixing up traditional races with objective-based missions. Sometimes, players will have to complete laps and finish ahead of their opponents while overcoming certain obstacles. One example saw me outrunning a dragon and looking to avoid parts of the track that it lit on fire with its flame breath. Another example designed my house with a futuristic motif, where I'd have to avoid drone police from pulling me over for speeding. This will be mixed in with missions, such as one where I'd have to complete a certain number of laps while avoiding spike strips or after holding a drift for a certain amount of time. What was remarkable about my time with the game was that as different obstacles hit me, the Chameleon would react accordingly. Yes, I did get sideswiped into a couch at one point.
Velan Studios is also hoping to ramp up the multiplayer possibilities of Rift Rally. Local co-op is available, where players can take turns controlling a single Chameleon with their respective controllers. More impressively, online multiplayer is available with cross-platform play. I was not able to try out this aspect of the game, though the idea of multiple Chameleons racing on a single track sounds like a rush.
Everything I've seen of Hot Wheels: Rift Rally looks like an evolution of a formula that Velan Studios adequately established the first time around. The Hot Wheels IP fits the developer like a glove, opening up a multitude of possibilities. However, taking this ride won't be cheap. The standard edition, which comes with the Chameleon RC Car, will sell for $129.99 USD. A collector's edition, with a black-and-gold Chameleon RC Car and a limited edition McLaren Senna Hot Wheels die-cast car housed in a display case, will go for $149.99. More details on those can be found on the Hot Wheels: Rift Rally website. Look for Hot Wheels: Rift Rally to release on iOS and PlayStation on Tuesday, March 14.